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posted: 1/14/2013 5:30 AM

Notre Dame's Kelly just did what coaches do

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  • Notre Dame's Brian Kelly just did what any good coach would do when he interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles about their opening.

    Notre Dame's Brian Kelly just did what any good coach would do when he interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles about their opening.
    Associated Press


Only fools take seriously anything any college football coach says.

Notre Dame fans never should have believed Brian Kelly when he said coaching ND was his dream job, that leaving South Bend isn't an option, even that he's staying.

Kelly didn't clarify whether he meant for an hour, a year or forever.

Nothing any sports figure says today has a life span beyond the period at the end of the sentence.

Two formidable opponents confronted Kelly this month, which combined are enough to scramble a coach's brain cells.

First came Alabama, which battered the Fighting Irish, and now comes public opinion, which scowls at him as we speak.

Once Kelly's mind wandered toward Philadelphia last week, the good will he established at Notre Dame followed.

There's Fighting Irish outrage that Kelly dared to interview for a job with the Eagles. You'd think none of us ever made a career move that left behind bosses who gave us a chance, colleagues who bonded with us and customers who trusted us.

So what exactly did Kelly do wrong by exploring a move from South Bend to South Philly?

To me, his only mistake was not bolting for the NFL now because there's a good chance he will sometime if the opportunity remains.

Kelly's career has demonstrated an ambitious itch and a compulsion to scratch. So why not get the next step over with and go to the Eagles?

Apparently the answer is that Kelly decided it wasn't in his best interests at this time, and personal best interest is what drives most coaches.

Yet critics suggested other reasons for Kelly to stay at Notre Dame.

Loyalty? To athletes he has been coaching and those committed to him in the 2013 class?

Sorry, but Notre Dame will fire Kelly without even a two-minute warning if the Irish's upward trajectory reverses downward.

This isn't family. It's football. The only loyalty Kelly owes Notre Dame is his best effort for however long he coaches there.

Credibility? Some believe Kelly squandered his by raving about the Notre Dame job and then flirting with Philly.

The only credibility Kelly should be concerned with maintaining is being one of college football's best coaches.

Image? One notion is that Kelly compromised his by even thinking of abandoning Notre Dame for the NFL's ruthless riches.

Football coaches are risk takers. If Kelly feared soiling his image he'd still be coaching at Grand Valley State three moves ago or maybe still be an assistant coach four moves ago.

Judging by his frequent career arc, Brian Kelly wouldn't be Brian Kelly if he didn't at least explore overtures from the Eagles.

What would Kelly have to lose by trying pro football? The only thing he'd mortgage is a coach's ever-tenuous job security, not the roof over his head.

Kelly's career would survive failure. Steve Spurrier is the poster coach for leaving college to fail in the NFL, but he's back on campus doing quite nicely coaching South Carolina.

If Kelly went to Philly, lost every Eagles game he coached and was fired, he still would be in demand at the highest level of college football.

But Kelly stayed in South Bend, not out of loyalty or to maintain credibility or for fear of failure.

Brian Kelly did it because this is what felt right for himself.

To expect anything more from a football coach -- or from most of us -- is foolish.

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